The doctor-patient relationship lies at the core of all specialties of medicine. It supersedes Google, Facebook, Yelp, and all other entities. Healthcare practitioners cannot separate themselves from this concept. Yes, you still have to run a business and be profitable, but at the end of the day, it is that vital human relationship that brings patients in the door. That doctor-patient face time is where the magic happens, and it is precious and impervious to external factors.

So, to that end, what patients really want is actually quite simple.

1. Treated with respect.

Read the reviews on rating sites and you will learn that bedside manner still counts a lot – even in medical aesthetics. You can’t really schedule patient visits every 15 minutes and give patients the time they expect and demand. An average consultation or first-time visit make take 30 minutes or more just to deprogram the patient who comes in with misinformation from the Internet and other sources. Patients want a doctor who understands and listens to them, and has the ability to show empathy, even when they are concerned about crow’s feet and acne scars rather than cancer or diabetes. They want a real connection with their doctors, and they are willing to pay a premium for it.

2. Honesty and transparency.

Patients don’t want to be marginalized and they don’t want to be sold. They expect and demand an honest evaluation and exchange of information. They value their doctor’s opinion and advice, even if they may not always listen to it. Explain everything slowly, clearly and in terms that they can understand. Show an attitude of ‘no question is too small or too stupid’. You can never go wrong by talking to patients as if you are talking to a member of your own family. While it is fine for your staff to “close” a consult or promote skin care products or additional treatments to patients, this should ideally not come from the doctor or doctors directly. Pass the patient on to a staff member when the topics of fees and payments come up. Doctors who talk about money can be seen in a negative light, even when it may be perfectly innocent. Note that on review sites, you will often find complaints like “I felt like I was being sold,” as a reason for giving a 2-3 star rating.

3. To be listened to.

Nobody wants to divulge personal details and their insecurities to someone who is not engaged, not listening or not really interested. Always look into a patient’s eyes when they are speaking. Don’t glance at your watch, take a call, pull out your phone to check a text or gaze at the ceiling. Try not to be distracted. Doctor-patient face time is a bonding experience. Be fully present in the conversation. Listen attentively, take notes if you want to, and don’t show signs of impatience. For example, eye rolls are a definite no-go. Show patients that you are concentrating and processing what they are telling you and asking about.

For patients who may have waited hours or days to get an appointment with you, this time is important to them and it should matter to you too. It is your opportunity to shine and forge lasting relationships that can generate a lifetime of referrals if you play your cards right.

All too often we are too busy and concerned about the bottom line to forget that the most important patient in your practice is the one sitting in front of you at that moment.

Looking for more branding and marketing tips? Check out Wendy Lewis’ best-selling book, Aesthetic Clinic Marketing in the Digital Age (CRC Press 2018).